More Cultivation Philosophies

After our profound encounter with the cultivation philosophy of the Iruligas earlier in January this year, we go back today to speak to Krishnappa, another respected member of the community who is not only a seasoned cultivator but who infact has been leading the fight for land on behalf of both the Hakki Pikkis and the Iruligas. Krishnappa is the rare Iruliga who is able to straddle the world of both the tribes. Being intimately acquainted and engaged with all their Goddessess, rituals and their irreverent lifestyle, he has been inducted as a honorary Hakki Pikki and and even sits in on and conducts all their panchayatis related to domestic and other family disputes! And is more than delighted when he is repaid in kind with generous doses of alcohol. If there is one principle Krishnappa has about drinking it is never to buy his own alcohol. Despite that his close proximity with the Hakki Pikkis ensure a continuous and happy supply. Much to the despair of his other half, Ratnamma.

Today we catch the first family of the Iruligas in their home. Ratnamma is busy shelling avarekkai harvested from their land. While Krishnappa sits down to hold forth on the only way of life he knows.

“Earlier we were about 10 families who originally were brought here by Division and Havlayya to help settle this colony since the Hakki Pikkis would not stay long enough to cultivate. We starting clearing and cultivating these lands and soon some of our Hakki Pikki friends started joining us. Even now we help them by cultivating their lands too for which we give them 2 bagfuls of ragi as paalu (share)”

The fact that the Hakki Pikkis dont take agriculture seriously is a sore point with Krishnappa who is one of the ones who is continuously trying to goad the Hakki Pikkis to cultivate. Sometimes with good humour but most times with the choices of expletives. The good natured ribbing goes back and forth that we hope will sustain and transform. “The land is like our mother. We can not only fight for the paper rights over the land. We have to also take care of her and continuously tend to her. Only then will she take care of us”  Other times he is not so kind. Especially when he tries to warn them of the consequences of not cultivating. Not surprisingly the  metaphor then changes from that of mother to wife.

” If you dont take care of your wife then she might run away with somebody else!” he pronounces in dire tones. Meaning the land mafia or the forest department will come and take away the land.

The elephants are not seen as much as a menace as much friendly rivals. Putting the formal doctrine of “Man Animal Conflict” into a more realistic and humane perspective. “The elephant and we are like brothers” he says affectionately. “We keep them away from the crops by lighting fires with a kind of bark that splutters.” But yet the elephant cleverly avoid the fire by coming and eating from the back. Like the deer and the rabbits.

“Agriculture is an occupation in which we all are able to eat…..the parrots, the rabbits, the elephants….” he winds up philosophically.

The casual conversation moves into long silences broken with familiar sounds as Vinod turns the camera around.  Sounds of Ratnamma  giggling uncontrollably when the camera focusses on her. Sounds of Sameet swallowing his laugh. Her bangles tinkling as her fingers fly fast peeling the avarekai…..”rap”…”rap.” A cock lazily crowing in the distance. Children screaming and fighting outside. A mother trying to bring order with a helpless “I will smack you” The clanking of pipes as they are laid outside to bring water in the inner roads. The digging of the drains and the road being laid. Birds chirping.

Sounds of a village breathing.

Sounds that speak of fragile but resilient lives and  livelihoods being drowned by the urban chaos that deafens our senses. And so we rarely care to listen.


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